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The "Copyright Black Hole" Swallowing Our Culture

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the sanity-optional dept.

Books 278

An anonymous reader writes "James Boyle, professor at Duke Law School, has a piece in the Financial Times in which he argues that a 'copyright black hole is swallowing our culture.' He explains some of the issues surrounding Google Books, and makes the point that these issues wouldn't exist if we had a sane copyright law. Relatedly, in recent statements to the still-skeptical European Commission, Google has defended their book database by saying that it helps to make the Internet democratic. Others have noted that the database could negatively affect some researchers for whom a book's subject matter isn't always why they read it."

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278 comments

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Democratic? (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29342547)

helps to make the internet democratic.

Lets ask ourselves how many governments around the world don't want the Internet to be more democratic.

Re:Democratic? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342645)

There's no problem as long as the population actually believe they live in a democratic country.

Re:Democratic? (4, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | about 5 years ago | (#29342663)

All of them? Seriously, in this day and age it is embarrassing we have not leveraged the power of the Internet to empower people to not only vote, and proclaim viewpoints but to be part of the legislative process itself. I would wager most people on this site know more about copyright than the average congress critter.

Re:Democratic? (4, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | about 5 years ago | (#29342669)

We're too lazy

Re:Democratic? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342961)

We're too lazy

That's exactly why this multiculturalism bullshit has got to stop. All these niggers and spics have made us fragmented and lazy. Remember folks, when the white man lays down his traditions and embraces those of a foreign group, that's multiculturalism. When the white man expects anyone else to reciprocate by doing the same and adopting his traditions and culture, that's racism. This is why liberals are a bunch of self-contradictory neurotic morons and should never be in charge of anything.

Re:Democratic? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343047)

When the english speaking white man will stop expecting my language to become english by virtue of my shared skin color, we'll talk.

Re:Democratic? (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29343191)

When the english speaking white man will stop expecting my language to become english by virtue of my shared skin color, we'll talk.

That actually is incorrect. The reason a particular language becomes a so-called lingua franca has much more to do with economics than politics, racism or anything else. You just have to follow the money.

The dominant military and/or economic power in any given period in history generally finds its language becoming popular, if nothing else because of all the other countries who wish to do business with it. So yes, I guess you could say that the United States (and the British Empire before it) expect those of other nations to speak English, if they wish to do business with us. Otherwise we don't particularly care.

Furthermore, in many parts of the world the local dialects are so thoroughly fragmented that people from one village often can't understand the native tongue of those a few miles away. Take Africa for example: widespread knowledge of both English and French have done much to facilitate communication among the various peoples of that continent. Want to do business with a neighboring town? Best learn English (or, as I said, French, since they had a huge influence there as well.) So you may find your ego being bruised by having to learn a language that is not your own but, historically, that's the breaks. And when the American economic empire finally falls (and we're on the way down, now) whoever takes up the reins will force us all to learn their language. Which, oddly enough, will probably be English since China is on the way to becoming the next economic (if not military) superpower, and the Chinese are making a heavy investment in the English language. Last I heard, there were more people learning English there than the entire population of the United States.

So get used to it. The English language is not going away any time soon.

Re:Democratic? (2, Insightful)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29343275)

-1 Strawman

Re:Democratic? (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29343313)

-1 Strawman

-2 Missed point.

Re:Democratic? (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29343371)

The point was to make a strawman?

Re:Democratic? (2, Funny)

networkBoy (774728) | about 5 years ago | (#29343509)

Yes, because next comes ad-hominim and then with the use of the strawman, we're at burningman.
-nB

Re:Democratic? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29343659)

Yes, because next comes ad-hominim and then with the use of the strawman, we're at burningman. -nB

Hey, best get your hooded robes and that flaming cross ready for the next part of this thread. It's all downhill from here.

Re:Democratic? (1)

ramjambam (1416617) | about 5 years ago | (#29343529)

shouldn't that mean that the second most common language should be Japanese?

Re:Democratic? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29343637)

shouldn't that mean that the second most common language should be Japanese?

Why would that follow? Most Japanese businessmen already speak adequate English. A hell of a lot better English than Americans will ever be with Japanese. They learned it in order to be able to trade with the United States ... and because so many other countries also use English for international business, that was sufficient.

Also, once a given tongue reaches the point of being a de-facto common language, there really isn't much need of another. If you have multiple common languages then you don't really have a common language, do you. Additionally, English was spread far and wide, not by the United States, but by the British Empire. That fact, plus the eventual American economic dominance pretty much assured that English would have a rather large following, worldwide.

As I mentioned before, the Chinese are learning English in droves. Why? Because they wish to trade with the rest of the world, and the movers and shakers of the industrialized world (and much of the third world) speak English, for better or worse. Who knows, maybe one day we'll all have to learn Mandarin. But for now, the Big E rules the roost.

Re:Democratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343987)

ni hui shuo putonghua ma

Re:Democratic? (2, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 5 years ago | (#29344043)

As I mentioned before, the Chinese are learning English in droves. Why? Because they wish to trade with the rest of the world, and the movers and shakers of the industrialized world (and much of the third world) speak English, for better or worse. Who knows, maybe one day we'll all have to learn Mandarin. But for now, the Big E rules the roost.

From what I can tell, the most often spoken European language in much of the Third World is French (it's widely spoken in African and still spoken by many in Indo-China). Spanish is also pretty big, dominating Latin America (except for Brazil), and, ironically enough, gaining considerable traction in the Southern United States (doubly ironic when you consider that huge chunks of that region were basically stolen from Mexico, maybe birth rate differentials mean the Mexicans will eventually get it back!)

English is a dominant language of trade and commerce, to be sure, but it's not the only one.

Re:Democratic? (5, Interesting)

Keen Anthony (762006) | about 5 years ago | (#29343791)

No. There's another reason why English in the lingua franca of the Internet. A major feature of the English language is its ability to incorporate foreign words and phrases in a useful way which colors, expands, and even conceptually improves the language. For example, this sentence is perfectly sensible English.

Hey amigo, konichiwa! That was some serious schadenfreude Bob showed earlier when Kate's car broke down, n'est-ce pas?

In this sentence, I used words from a total of five languages: English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish. It doesn't matter that two were Romance languages. I could have used "chombatta" instead of "amigo" and gone completely neo-African cyberpunk. Hell, if I spoke Klingon, I could have added some of that in. The German word, "Schadenfreude" adds a new word to English which explains a concept that doesn't exist in the language already. Notice also, that I could use the Saxon genitive to expression possession instead of the less efficient "the car of Kate".

The result is that English can expand really fast. It's likely the most extensible and expansive language on earth. It is always easily expressible without reliance on numerous accent marks. Japanese requires more effort to express electronically. Japanese also isn't as extensible in written form as English is. Japanese is written using multiple forms: hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romaji. The Japanese pull it off well, but these are hacks - especially romaji. The Chinese have the same problem.

English can grow to accommodate words from other cultures as they become trendy. If Brazil becomes an amazingly cool place culturally, and people outside Brazil start using Brazilian slang, English will better adapt to include Portuguese words than say German or Russian. If I were to bet on any language surviving another couple thousand years and still being structurally the same while still growing, I think it will be English. Sure, we probably not recognize it cause the first person singular pronoun will be "Wa" instead of "I", but a language like Chinese can only maintain its native structure by resisting multi-cultural extension.

Re:Democratic? (3, Insightful)

Requiem18th (742389) | about 5 years ago | (#29343679)

Indeed as a fan of artificial languages (conlangs constructed languages) I once wanted to see one used for international communications (specifically an IAL international auxiliary language).

Rick Harrison, a prominent figure in the international conlang community wrote an essay [rickharrison.com] on why IAL will never work. Essentially the point is that people don't choose to agree on a common language, instead whoever wants to start conversation learns the other language first.

The up side is that you don't *have* to learn English, just be the best burger seller in your country and McDonald's will send someone to ask to buy your business in *your* own language.

Re:Democratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29344219)

That actually is incorrect. The reason a particular language becomes a so-called lingua franca has much more to do with economics than politics, racism or anything else. You just have to follow the money.

Easy for you to say, Mr. English-speaking white man. I have *NO* fucking money to follow.

Re:Democratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343619)

then go back to your native country. I'm sure they would expect me to learn your language if I moved there.

Re:Democratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343683)

Nobody's forcing you to use English. Feel free to use any language you want. Of course, if you expect English-speakers to understand you, you might want to consider using English. By the way, "english speaking white man" and "shared skin color" are very offensive in tone, and simply untrue; we expect folks with every shade of skin color to use English if they want us to understand them.

Re:Democratic? (5, Insightful)

Mascot (120795) | about 5 years ago | (#29342705)

There are valid reasons to think twice before allowing online voting. The most common being that it's impossible to verify that the voter is not being influenced by someone at the time of voting.

Re:Democratic? (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29342779)

Exactly [musicmachinery.com] .

Re:Democratic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343185)

Which is why all those nice young men with their automatic firearms and machetes patrol the voting booths in Zimbabwe.

Re:Democratic? (1)

canadian_right (410687) | about 5 years ago | (#29343391)

The parent has a valid point.

Internet voting is way to easy to hack, but states with minimal rule of law can have vote rigging and violence at polls.

Re:Democratic? (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29342731)

We have. Look at the Pirate Party in Europe. The difference is here in the USA we have a flawed system. A system that while it makes since with a small federal government and a small-ish state government, is fundamentally broken. A system that gives you two choices, either A or B, a system that is designed not to give you a third choice.

When you are advocating a third choice in a system designed for only two choices, its very hard to get a third choice accepted.

A Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342833)

... The difference is here in the USA we have a flawed system. A system that while it makes sense with a small federal government and a small-ish state government, is fundamentally broken. A system that gives you two choices, either A or B, a system that is designed not to give you a third choice.
When you are advocating a third choice in a system designed for only two choices, its very hard to get a third choice accepted.

Indeed.

Look up Approval Voting [approvalvoting.com] for a balloting method that does not squeeze out third parties.

Wikipedia article on Approval Voting [wikipedia.org]
Citizens for Approval voting [approvalvoting.org]
Approval Voting and the Good Society [boulder.co.us]

Re:Democratic? (2, Interesting)

Ephemeriis (315124) | about 5 years ago | (#29343189)

When you are advocating a third choice in a system designed for only two choices, its very hard to get a third choice accepted.

Actually, if you look at how the system was actually designed originally, there were no parties at all.

The problem is that over the years our system has been corrupted and bastardized to the point where it really just doesn't work anymore.

I suppose it's better than a straight-up dictatorship... But it's nearly impossible to affect any actual change at all in this system. As you said, it's impossible to get a viable third party going... And the existing two parties are just variations on a theme... And when election time rolls around it isn't even about who's the better (least-bad) candidate - but rather who runs the best commercials.

Re:Democratic? (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#29343435)

You're missing the point, on a very shallow level you have a point, if you want to be elected, you're probably going to have to be either a Democrat or a Republican. But as a side effect of having only 2 parties, you get unintended consequences like the people within the party being less likely to go along with the party platform on any given issue.

There's no reason to dump the current system rather than make a couple of minor adjustments to remedy the worst of it. Moving to a system like we have in WA or they have in IA where the winners don't get to do the districting is a substantial step towards genuine democracy. Taking another step by moving to a form of primary such as the top two where the candidates that best appeal to the voters get advanced rather than getting an automatic opportunity for all parties is another significant step.

It's also worth pointing out that Canada and the various EU member states have their own problems. Sure they have a huge number of parties, but it doesn't magically improve the quality of the legislation or legislators. That takes a lot of work and for the population to be both informed and care.

Re:Democratic? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29343745)

There are a lot of problems with our current system being adapted for use now. For one it assumes that states are unified, and what works for one group in the state works for them all. When things were less diverse, it made sense. For example, pro-agriculture legislation worked well in the pre-civil war south because about every aspect of life in the south was tied into agriculture. Similarly, pro-industrial legislation worked well in the pre-civil war north. However today everything is diverse. There are high-tech jobs in Kansas, and low-tech jobs in New York. While this is happening the federal government has taken over more and more things, no longer is the federal branch some "far off" place with legislation that only affects a small amount of people, but it is part of everyone's day to day life. It is no longer good enough to assume that everyone in the state has the same needs that need to be represented in the federal government.

It's also worth pointing out that Canada and the various EU member states have their own problems. Sure they have a huge number of parties, but it doesn't magically improve the quality of the legislation or legislators. That takes a lot of work and for the population to be both informed and care.

Yes, but at least people's opinions are represented. That is, if 5% of people believe in a certain political ideal, they may have no representation in the government. To put this in perspective, that is 15 million people (using 300 million as the number of people in the USA) have no representation in the government. That is more than 5 times the population of Chicago! Do all those people deserve not to have any of their voice heard?

Re:Democratic? (0, Troll)

thefringthing (1502177) | about 5 years ago | (#29343553)

There's only one choice: A and B are both "Priveleged White Fatcat Oligarchy Party".

Re:Democratic? (2, Funny)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | about 5 years ago | (#29343681)

So what third party is Barack Obama a member of?

Re:Democratic? (2, Informative)

VJ42 (860241) | about 5 years ago | (#29343641)

We have. Look at the Pirate Party in Europe. The difference is here in the USA we have a flawed system... When you are advocating a third choice in a system designed for only two choices, its very hard to get a third choice accepted.

The American system is FPTP [wikipedia.org] like the British one, we managed to get a Third Party [wikipedia.org] , and a bunch of smaller ones [wikipedia.org] . Why the USA hasn't developed "The Texas independence party" or "The New York First Party" etc. is beyond me. You guys should have parties from all 50 states represented in congress, where are all your local parties?

And just because you stand little chance of being elected isn't a reason not to create or join a smaller party. The Greens in the UK have all three main parties spouting their message because they were taking important votes in marginal constituencies. They've never had a single seat, but they've effectively won the argument. That's far more important than getting power, and it's a part of our [pirateparty.org.uk] strategy as well. We know we're not going to win a seat, but we can make others lose until they listen to our message (in case it's not obvious enough I recently joined the Pirate Party UK).

Re:Democratic? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 5 years ago | (#29344065)

We have third parties, they just don't appear as such. The Blue Dog Democrats at the federal level are one example. It's just that they are lumped in with the Democrats. If you looked at the individuals in the Democrat and Republican parties, you'd see a wider variety than it would appear by just looking at party affiliation. At the local level, we have several third parties, they just don't make the national news.

Re:Democratic? (1)

Threni (635302) | about 5 years ago | (#29343321)

Online voting doesn't solve any problems. If you can't get your arse down to a local school/town hall etc every 5 years to tick a fucking box then you don't deserve a vote. You want a paper trail so you can do recounts and prevent fraud. It's not so hard to understand.

Re:Democratic? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#29343459)

Clearly, you've never voted by mail. It's nice, you can sit around for a few days, looking into particular items and voting as you make the decisions and have plenty of time to go over your ballot without inconveniencing other people. And you can sit on it for a few days if you wish in case you change your mind.

There's also the matter of people that have to work on election day, one of my co-workers is stuck working a full twelve hour shift and would have a huge amount of trouble voting if not for absentee voting.

Re:Democratic? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 5 years ago | (#29343581)

While not guaranteed to be paid, you and your coworker have a legal _right_ to vote. Your employer is required to give you two hours off (traditionally at the beginning or end of your shift) to go vote. Since I work nearly an hour from my polling place, I simply leave 2 hours before the polls close (if I'm on 12's). If your employer even verbally chastises you for this (assuming you informed them you're going to go vote), then you can bring it up to the voting office and likely won't have to work for quite a while with the resulting lawsuit. Granted, I like voting by mail, and like I said voting doesn't guarantee you pay for those hours...
-nB

Re:Democratic? (1)

mrjohnson (538567) | about 5 years ago | (#29342999)

Lets ask ourselves how many governments around the world don't want the Internet to be more democratic.

Can't burn an ebook?

Re:Democratic? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29343069)

Lets ask ourselves how many governments around the world don't want the Internet to be more democratic.

Can't burn an ebook?

Sure you can [slashdot.org]

Re:Democratic? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29343775)

Then they added:
"Think of the children!"
and:
"Look at the silly monkey! Look at the silly monkey!" *head explodes*

Our ministry of culture (2, Informative)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | about 5 years ago | (#29344107)

Frederic Mitterrand, the nephew of the former president, just appointed by our dumbass in chief Sarkzy, just stated that he wanted to fight "free [libre] internet fundamentalists."

I sooo wanted to cockpunch the son of a bitch. And the god damn sarkock-sucking media who didn't point out the outrageous nature of that fascist statement.

simple. (1)

polar red (215081) | about 5 years ago | (#29342675)

By the people, for the people ?

Re:simple. (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 5 years ago | (#29342703)

By the people, for the people ?

Unfortunately, your signature is the way it is these days.

Re:simple. (1)

evilbessie (873633) | about 5 years ago | (#29343135)

Of the people, by the people, for the people. Otherwise I vote for Kodos.

Boyle's book: 'The Public Domain' (5, Informative)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 5 years ago | (#29342695)

As a lawyer working in the area, I highly recommend Boyle's book, 'The Public Domain [thepublicdomain.org] ' - available under a Creative Commons licence, as well as in dead-tree format.

A fascinating (and easy to read) discussion about the concept of 'the public domain', which is well worth reading for anyone who cares about the future of technological development / societal impact of overbearing IP regulation etc.

Re:Boyle's book: 'The Public Domain' (2, Informative)

sayfawa (1099071) | about 5 years ago | (#29343511)

Just wanted to mention that one should also check out Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture [free-culture.cc] , which has an interesting history of copyright, and the erosion of the public domain.

Copyright law IS a black hole... (2, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | about 5 years ago | (#29342723)

...so much so that places like /., which quite often provide original thinking upon a variety of subjects to anybody cunning enough to use a web crawler, should think about including "any derivative works originating from ideas or opinions expressed within the contents of this website constitute prior art and are covered by the GNU GPL" (or some such, while bearing in mind that IANAL).

One of you geniuses may unknowingly and casually toss out a feasible idea. It would burn you, to see somebody turn that into a profit-making machine, wouldn't it?

lollll....you'll know when you do it, though; a squad of lawyers will show up on your doorstep with a $1 bill, a quitclaim agreement, and a host of delightful comments upon the hazards of a lifetime spent in courtrooms - particularly when considered in light of your...unfortunate...financial circumstances and how the latter affects your ability to retain good legal representation...

Re:Copyright law IS a black hole...BANG! (4, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 5 years ago | (#29342831)

lollll....you'll know when you do it, though; a squad of lawyers will show up on your doorstep with a $1 bill, a quitclaim agreement, and a host of delightful comments upon the hazards of a lifetime spent in courtrooms - particularly when considered in light of your...unfortunate...financial circumstances and how the latter affects your ability to retain good legal representation...

That would be the perfect opportunity for me to show up at the other side of the door with a shotgun and an attitude.

Seriously, the more unreasonable the laws become, the greater the self-justification for breaking them, whether by shotgun, or P2P digital file sharing.

Re:Copyright law IS a black hole...BANG! (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 5 years ago | (#29343337)

I agree with you opinion and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Copyright law vs. Black Holes (5, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 5 years ago | (#29343293)

  • The more matter that is added to it the larger the gravitational/financial attraction.
  • The laws governing each of them are so complex that nobody quite understands how either works.
  • When an object falls into a Black Hole you never see it cross the event horizon because time slows down the closer it gets to it. When an object falls under copyright you never quite see it leave copyright because as it nears the exit horizon the term gets extended.
  • A Black Hole is the corpse of a star that once shone brightly and warmed any planets that it supported. Copyright Law is the corpse of an idea that once warmed the culture that it created it.

Wow, copyright law really is a Black Hole!

Re:Copyright law IS a black hole... (3, Informative)

Pandare (975485) | about 5 years ago | (#29343323)

Technically, by publishing your comments here, you retain full copyright just like everything else you've ever written under the Berne Convention [wikipedia.org] by default. /. is even nicer, since in the SourceForge TOS [sourceforge.com] Sec. 13 says that they'll help you if you get your stuff copied without permission and it ends up on one of their websites. A lot of TOS don't even have explicit compliance with the DMCA, love it or hate it (or both).

Your idea that the site should include some boilerplate that says all content is licensed under the GNU GPL or CC-BY-NC-ND [creativecommons.org] would be exactly the opposite of what you want, I think. If they were to do that, they would be stripping the users from the right of total control of their works. Any license that automatically strips authors of their rights to determine how their work promulgates (I'm looking at you, GPL!) to me, at least, seems abusive.

And while IANAL, IAALS, and as such, this is not legal advice, I can't even be your lawyer if I wanted and all that fun stuff.

Why Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342741)

Why not pirate bay as the worlds library ... arrr

Economic benefit vs economic waste (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 years ago | (#29342801)

I think we can almost take it for granted that current copyright policy is damaging to our cultural development. How could it not be to have all our creative expression tied up and limited based on whether or not someone created something similar? However, whenever the whole issue gets raised, questions get quashed by talking about "the economy" and economic benefits bestowed on certain groups by copyright.

Those are certainly issues to think about. By what means would authors and songwriters make money if copyright ceased on exist, or even was much more limited? What happens to all the jobs created by the publishing industry, the music industry, and the movie industry? It's particularly a concern in the US because we don't manufacture very much anymore, and a lot of what we export are our ideas and creative works.

On the other hand, what almost no one talks about is the economic waste generated by all this. The broken window fallacy [wikipedia.org] doesn't just apply to damage, but it applies to all money that need not be spent. How much money do businesses spend figuring out copyright issues, dealing with lawyers to protect copyrights or to defend against copyright lawsuits? How much more cheaply could Google do this indexing if the restrictions were eased? If movies and music and books were cheaper, then we would have the extra money in our pockets to spend on other things.

We keep hearing about how much money is "generated" by creative industries, and how big a portion of our economy they represent. The information is always offered as evidence that these industries need to be protected, because of the economic damage caused by loss of jobs and loss of profit. However, there's a flip-side to that coin. All that money they're making is coming from somewhere. I'm not claiming it's a zero-sum game because it's not that simple, but for all the billions of dollars these industries make, there's a question of how that money would be spent and where it would go if the government weren't actively protecting fat profit margins for these business models.

Re:Economic benefit vs economic waste (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343165)

The "broken window fallacy" was a pro-capitalist argument made by someone arguing against Keynesian economics and the use of government spending for economic stimulus. It had nothing to do with copyright reform. You could as easily twist Hazlitt's argument as saying that this justifies shoplifting at the mall, since that leaves customers with more money in their pockets to buy other things with.

But I appreciate that the "broken window fallacy" has a hipness factor here, that can be used to help validate an argument by association, even where it doesn't apply. Maybe you can work Benjamin Franklin into your post next time, as well.

Incidentally Hazlitt's actual argument was one-sided and simplistic - it was like Aristotle arguing that heavy objects fall faster than light ones, without actually having done the experiment - but that is neither here nor there.

Re:Economic benefit vs economic waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343193)

Marketing and lobbying are big black holes in our economy as well...

Re:Economic benefit vs economic waste (5, Insightful)

budgenator (254554) | about 5 years ago | (#29344233)

I think we can almost take it for granted that current copyright policy is damaging to our cultural development
That's because most right's holders have an intolerable sense of entitlement and really want protection in perpetuity. There is an implied contract with society and the right's holders, we provide you with a legal framework to protect your economic interest in creative works an in return the work passes into the public domain after a defined period of time. By extending the copyright period I feel my future compensation has been seized without being compensated for the loss, I paid my taxes what happened to just compensation?

Now try to read the article (5, Funny)

Animats (122034) | about 5 years ago | (#29342805)

Here's what happens when I tried to read the article:

To continue reading this article, please register - it's quick, free and without obligation...

You have viewed your 30 days allowance of 2 free articles.

Re:Now try to read the article (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | about 5 years ago | (#29342935)

I'd copy and paste it for you but slashdots unicode-retardedness seems to be a good copy protection mechanism.

Re:Now try to read the article (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | about 5 years ago | (#29343015)

http://jottit.com/ [jottit.com] might help.

Re:Now try to read the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343527)

Here, I'll sum it up for you:

Copyright BAD.

This post copyright Anonymous Coward, 2009. All rights reserved. This post may not be retransmitted or rebroadcast without the express written consent of Anonymous Coward.

Bad news.. (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 5 years ago | (#29342825)

It's not "swallowing" our culture as much as fencing it off from all sorts of people.

I'm convinced, though, that the more corporations try to limit the availability of "culture" by trying to create a false scarcity, the level of productivity among local and online artists who refuse to participate will increase, and more people will turn to them for their art, music, literature, journalism, etc.

The only way to save our culture is to change the dynamic that exists between corporations and individuals. You might be surprised to learn that corporations did not always exist just to enslave the population. And I believe it will not always remain so.
My fear though is that they will try to close those "loopholes" by making it harder for individuals to distribute their own music without a "license". There could also be technical limitations placed, such as making the popular media players only play "licensed" media. I could definitely see a company like Apple or Sony making their players only play files that come from the big corporate copyright holders. Hell, that's been their plan for a long time, but the homebrew and hacker communities kept defeating them. I don't believe they're ready to give up on the "gated community" view of culture, though.

Re:Bad news.. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29343281)

There could also be technical limitations placed, such as making the popular media players only play "licensed" media. I could definitely see a company like Apple or Sony making their players only play files that come from the big corporate copyright holders. Hell, that's been their plan for a long time, but the homebrew and hacker communities kept defeating them. I don't believe they're ready to give up on the "gated community" view of culture, though.

Go one step further, and they will even restrict what you read, its not just about music and video 'media'.

Campaign donor - independent data files (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | about 5 years ago | (#29343411)

There could also be technical limitations placed, such as making the popular media players only play "licensed" media. I could definitely see a company like Apple or Sony making their players only play files that come from the big corporate copyright holders. Hell, that's been their plan for a long time, but the homebrew and hacker communities kept defeating them. I don't believe they're ready to give up on the "gated community" view of culture, though.

Go one step further, and they will even restrict what you read, its not just about music and video 'media'.

Go even one step further than that, and they will restrict who can read, listen or watch to a subset of those who are customers in good standing of specific campaign donors. Your congressman's eyes will glaze over when you talk about open standards or net neutrality. Request campaign donor-independent media formats or campaign donor-independent net access.

Re:Bad news.. (1)

schon (31600) | about 5 years ago | (#29343469)

the more corporations try to limit the availability of "culture" by trying to create a false scarcity, the level of productivity among local and online artists who refuse to participate will increase

Because work produced by "local and online artists" aren't covered by copyright?

Sorry, that work is just as "walled off" as everything else - which seems to me is the plan. The problem is that the current copyright regime is based on propaganda that copying is illegal unless you pay for it. If it's owned by someone, it's not part of our shared culture.

Re:Bad news.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343627)

Not all artists have the desire to make money from their creations. Infact some of the best music I've found was absolutely free. I think what he means is that if the corporations try to controll creativity, people will no longer turn to them for "media", they will turn to alternatives, which in this case are online artists who's work is viewable for free.

The Problem (4, Insightful)

KwKSilver (857599) | about 5 years ago | (#29342847)

Nothing short of eternal copyright and unlimited damages has any chance of satisfying the copyright cartel... and even that may not be enough as their desires are limited only by their imaginations. Like two year olds they want the moon, the stars and ... EVERYTHING. They think that they are divine.

Re:The Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342957)

Unlimited copywrite works! I am the bone of my intellectual property.

Re:The Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29342985)

Ironically, divine works are subject to fair use more leniently than other works.

Re:The Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343033)

hey its like they say, shoot for the moon even if you miss you land amongst the starts.

we need to tell Disney et. al. to screw off (3, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 years ago | (#29342893)

If a work of art does not make any money for the author in 10 years, it will never make real money. If in ten years you have a hit, then you will have made so much more money that the next ten years is not worth all that much. The TINY amount of cash that art makes past he 10 year mark supports the distributors, not the artists. Why because they make pennies from thousands of low level 'successes'.

Simple solution is copyrights work for ten years, plus another 10 if you have a full sized derivative work, 5 years if you make a smaller work. (The derivatives get 10 years from their own creation).

This pays the artists a fair amount of cash, keeps the publishers/distributors in business, yet allows people to do reasonable fair use.

Re:we need to tell Disney et. al. to screw off (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 5 years ago | (#29343101)

Why not have different lengths of copyright, based on the type of work.
Certainly art like a painting or sculpture would be entitled to a longer copyright term than a commercial work like a cartoon.
The difficulty here would be to create a set of rules that determines what type of work something is, or indeed what types of would one should distinguish.
One rule might be to look at how much value a copyrighted work has after a certain number of years. Cartoons obviously have less value a few years old than during premiere whereas paintings typically have a far more stable value. Music performances would probably fall somewhere inbetween those.

Re:we need to tell Disney et. al. to screw off (3, Insightful)

canadian_right (410687) | about 5 years ago | (#29343453)

Why?

It is an unnecessary complication. One automatic 20 year term, and one optional 10 year extension should satisfy any artist.

Re:we need to tell Disney et. al. to screw off (1)

vivaelamor (1418031) | about 5 years ago | (#29344215)

Choosing between different arbitrary options is hard. At least, for the observers.

Re:we need to tell Disney et. al. to screw off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343475)

Counterpoint! [youtube.com]

[I actually am making a point]

Why the Subject Matter Isn't Always Why They Read (2, Informative)

RichDiesal (655968) | about 5 years ago | (#29342907)

Others have noted that the database could negatively affect some researchers for whom a book's subject matter isn't always why they read it."

This is a little vague. The purpose of one of TFAs is to show how inaccurate the metadata on books in their database can be, and how Google is unwilling to do anything about it. Thus, when researchers use Google book search to look up information about books, rather than read the book (as the summary implies), they can be mislead.

Two examples from TFA: a search for "Internet" in books published before 1950 produces 527 results, and a book entitled "Culture and Society 1780-1950" was supposedly published in 1899.

Re:Why the Subject Matter Isn't Always Why They Re (1)

Opyros (1153335) | about 5 years ago | (#29343757)

This problem has been discussed [upenn.edu] recently [upenn.edu] on Language Log, for those who are interested.

The "Black Hole" has not started (3, Interesting)

nns6561 (559085) | about 5 years ago | (#29342953)

Wait until fundamentalist religious groups realize how much culture they could remove simply by buying the copyrights to those works. Once a fundamentalist Christian, Jewish, or Muslim group realizes that by investing billions of dollars they could completely control all large media, the culture war will truly begin.

IP-based economy (2, Interesting)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 years ago | (#29343001)

The bizaro legal system is a natural consequence of our economic policy to promote IP-based economy.

Not Google who stinks (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29343023)

I'm really sick of all these attempts to make Google look bad out of something from which they rather should be made heroes, which reminds me a not-too-old / story. The copyright law was completely fucked up by the current opponents to the settlement and their predecessors, and NO, a first grant of the sort doesn't imply monopoly (really, why are these morons talking about "exclusivity", "imperialist ambitions", "monopoly"?), and on the contrary it'll be a major shift for book avaibility and affordability. If Google was another Microsoft, we would be 10 years backward, Internet features-wise.

Above all, why are these morons moaning about the "opt out" issue while they can just opt out ? Ohhh, maybe trying to protect the naive and uninformed, who does not care at all about his old works ?

The critics about OCR and metadata generation quality should really look at what the concurrence does, i.e respectively similar quality and nothing at all.
I've just read a Teleread comment which says he/she wants to bar Google from scanning books because of the OCR quality, we are in the total FUD non-sense here.

Make it a public task to store our culture (5, Interesting)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 5 years ago | (#29343037)

I made a really long-winded comment [slashdot.org] about it previously.

To store 720p AND 1080p copies of every movie and tv-show listed on IMDB would probably take something like 10 PB. That would likely cover dubbed soundtracks and subtitles as well.

And at Sun's prices, that'd be about 10 million dollars for a single copy (not including data center costs) stored in 21 racks.

Add in all the books ever written, music and news papers published, what are we looking at? 50 PB for a full copy? Obviously you'd need redundant storage placed on various continents, and you'd expect to replace the hardware every once in a while, but what is our entire cultural history worth to us as a civilization? A billion dollars a year? Two? Keep in mind, it shouldn't just be the US or the EU funding this, it should be everyone.

Make it a requirement for companies that if they want copyrights on their works, they have to submit it unencumbered to the storage facility. That way there can be no excuses from the companies, that they don't have $work in production any more, as it'd be easy to sell access to a particular work. And if they can't submit it for whatever reason? Copyright expires on that particular work. That'd certainly get their asses in gear to get their entire back catalogue digitized.

The desired culture (0, Offtopic)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 5 years ago | (#29343039)

Copyright law isn't killing culture -- it's promoting culture -- just that it's the culture of Big Brother where memories are supposed to "questioned" as stated by CNN on their front page last month:

10 ways to be a better thinker [cnn.com]

6. Be skeptical of your memories.

In recent years, scientists have demonstrated that human memories are surprisingly dishonest. The act of recalling an event (say, your eighth birthday party) changes the structure of that memory in the brain. Details are tweaked; the narrative is altered.

The more you think about it, the less accurate your recollection becomes, and the less reliable it is as a basis for making any kind of conclusion. (So maybe you shouldn't hire a clown for your kid's party after all.)

Black hole? (1)

UbuntuniX (1126607) | about 5 years ago | (#29343049)

I prefer to think of it as more of a glory holy.

Arrest him now! (2, Funny)

zmollusc (763634) | about 5 years ago | (#29343093)

Unless this professor is arrested and waterboarded immediately the terrorists will win!!

Double Binds & Due Diligence (2, Informative)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29343121)

Corporations began as a means to limit risk exposure to investors in adventures in trade and, thus, encourage investment. Putting aside, for the purposes of my comment, their current morals & ethics, Corporations still function to turn a profit and limit liability for investors. The world has grown small and overcrowded and everyone wants a big piece of the pie. Urbanization can be viewed as our attempts to deal with relatively high populations and scare resources. The results are often bottlenecks that force compromise and innovation. In a small, overpopulated world wherein we can't export our surplus populations or pollution, problems become even more acute. Corporations, especially where publicly held, are double binded by being forced to maximize profits and protect their investors capital. Due diligence has become a catch phrase used throughout various subcultures, but it serves as the modern day equivalent of caveat emptor. What happens in a situation wherein there's too many players all jostling for scare resources? Double binds, or, multiple ungiving constraints appear. Government is put in place to oversee market conditions, inter alia, and, ideally find ways to ease the pressures coming from too many players and too few resources. Unfortunately when there's no room to export surplus populations and home made externalities like pollution can't be exported and impinge on neighbouring sovereign states things just get worse. Investors want a good return on their investment and a reward for saving against future contingencies, corporations are forced to protect investors' capital and return a profit, Government is saddled with playing all players off one another and borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. It's an ugly situation and IP rights and abuses are just a symptom of more systemic problems.

May you live long and prosper in interesting times. :)

Re:Double Binds & Due Diligence (2, Informative)

shmlco (594907) | about 5 years ago | (#29344155)

Have you ever heard of paragraphs? (plural)

Copyright and the old vs. the young (3, Interesting)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 5 years ago | (#29343149)

I wonder if it is the case that if the USA's IP regime gets so oppressive it starts violent demonstrations, I wonder what our violent dystopian wasteland could be?

Will we have a future where the IP Exec's offices are stormed by mobs of angry young people wielding lethal force and murdering shareholders, board members and CEOs? What would such a future look like? Will we have the government executing citizens for IP related offenses? Will we go to war with countries over IP?

Kinda a scary thought.

Re:Copyright and the old vs. the young (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29344057)

In my opinion the detriment to human advancement these companies are causing already warrants violent, lethal response. It's time people break their damn chains.

No, its not copyright. (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29343261)

Its the lawyers that are swallowing our culture.

Re:No, its not copyright. (3, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | about 5 years ago | (#29343389)

It's not the lawyers - they are only enablers. It's people who HIRE lawyers, and the citizens who fail to demand a stop to the insanity be enacted by their legislators who cause the problem.

Re:No, its not copyright. (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29343789)

When you get to the mega corps, that are run by lawyers, they are self perpetuating and the general public really no longer plays into it.

Re:No, its not copyright. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 years ago | (#29343901)

Oh, but don't ever think the lawyers aren't smiling and encouraging it every step of the way. Lawyers have their own lobby too.

It's not a black hole (4, Insightful)

smoker2 (750216) | about 5 years ago | (#29343407)

It's not just copyright swallowing our culture, which is why I find it ironic that this is being discussed by people on an American site, talking about an American company. It's about time the EU started actually standing up for the people it represents instead of wealthy American corporations.

I mean bitching at MS about IE and WMP is all well and good, but when the basic standard for proving you can operate a computer - the European Computer Driving Licence [headru.sh] - is nothing more than a short training course in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, it makes you wonder whose side they're on. At least call it Office skills or something. Why are we entrenching a foreign corporation on one hand and complaining about it on the other ? It qualifies you to operate a computer in the same way operating a washing machine qualifies you as an electrical engineer. You even get points for putting your name in the right place FFS.

(The tests in that zip are last years version - the new ones mean you have to use vista and Office 2007. They also dropped the Access section completely. Those files have not touched a Windows computer since I got them from the British Computer Societys web site.)

Some jokers are charging £500 for that shit (training and test). I'd get into it myself, except I would never ever feel clean again.

The usual Information Wants to be Free (1, Troll)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about 5 years ago | (#29343461)

drivel, but I have yet to see a comprehensive solution offered up by anyone that covers everyone fairly

Who are the people that need protecting?

  • Content creators. Yes those people who actually write a book, play, music, software application, movie script, etc.
  • Content owners. Yes those people whom have purchased the rights, first north american, first world wide, all rights, some rights, or whatever the agreement is that was made with the original content owner

How long do they deserve this protection for? 1 Year, 1000 years? And should that protection be different for content creators then content owners ( except when they are the same entity) ?

Should this protection be and estate protection, in other words, is it inheritable? Could I as a content creator / owner leave that protection in my will to my heirs? If so how long should that protection last, or should it? Would that same estate protection be enjoyed by content owners?

What agreements should be legal? Should it be legal for a person, as an employee of a company who pays them a salary to create a specific content, to be bound by an agreement of employment to assign all protection to that company? And if so, does that company fall under the definition of creator, owner or both of that content?

There are many difficult questions to be answered before a sweeping grand reform of protections granted under the term copyright can even be attempted.

I await your collective responses with curiosity.

Repeal all IP laws back to 1790 (3, Insightful)

sadler121 (735320) | about 5 years ago | (#29343533)

The Copyright and Patent laws of 1790 are, imo, is sufficient enough to "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;".

14 year copyright, with a 14 year extension, and 17 years for a patent is enough. Authors and Inventors shouldn't be allowed to rest on their laurals for the rest of their lives, but actually contribute to society, which is what the original copyright and patent laws provided for.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Act_of_1790 [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_Act_of_1790 [wikipedia.org]

In related news (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#29343583)

Next WIPO [wipo.int] meeting in Geneva will treat this topic next november (after going to the activation ceremony of this [web.cern.ch] ).

Simplify the Law (1)

Ankh (19084) | about 5 years ago | (#29343603)

I run a Website for images (mostly) and text scanned from old books. When Google books started I thought at first I could just give up, but it turns out that the quality is so low for Google books that http://www.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] and other sites like it continue to perform a valuable service.

I have had to spend a lot of time researching copyright law. I started out believing wikipedia, hah! And there are tons of Web sites with myths about copyright, e.g. that anything published before 1923 anywhere in the world is out of copyright in the US. Did you know that the UK copyright act has an exception specifically for works created in a hovercraft? Or that anonymous works have different copyright terms than ones that are credited, but e.g. if the name of a photographer becomes known (or knowable through any public means) after publication, it gets the longer term? And there's no central registry.

We're all getting screwed out of our heritage when a private corporation can control the world's library. To stop this, copyright law must be made simpler, and there must be online searchable registries. Copyright must eventually be harmonized between all countries, since digital information knows no borders. But it must be harmonized in such a way that some currently cpoyrighted works fall out of copyright, and as few as possible works that are out of copyright are placed back into cpoyright. The difficulty is that in corrupt regimes like the US, companies can pay politicians for their election campaigns, and hence special interests predominate politics. And I have idea how to end that corruption, of course.

Amazon Kindle... (1)

Xin Jing (1587107) | about 5 years ago | (#29343687)

I still have issues with the Kindle lack of 'right of first sale'. What if I wanted to create and sell the ultimate sci-fi edition? What if I wanted to run a 'used Kindle' store? What if... not with a Kindle.

Re:Amazon Kindle... (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#29343933)

Most of the problems with the Kindle are closely associated with Amazon's management of the device. Amazon has tried to hide the fact that the device does indeed have a protected Mobipocket PID, but I think this is eventually going to come out no matter what.

There is no hope for "right of first sale" for digital goods. You can resell your iTunes purchases - only if you don't mind the files being watermarked with your personal information. DRM isn't the point - the point is that if you can sell a copy of your purchase there is nothing to prevent you from doing so and keeping the original. This then places you in competition with the publisher and Amazon, in the case of the Kindle. iTunes is a good example of this again - they have maybe 1% of the music downloads and maybe 90% of the paid music downloads.

Used Kindle hardware certainly has a resale market. Used Kindle hardware with a collection of paid-for books on it some problems but not that much. Used Kindle books do not exist in a manner in which you can sell the one-and-only copy you paid for.

Two things Amazon could do would make this situation a lot nicer. One is to make it possible to display the standard Mobipocket PID. Yes, it means other stores than Amazon can sell protected books for the Kindle - but it also enables "borrowing" digital works from a library as that is the only way it is going to work. The other thing they can do is established a "used book" market within Amazon for resale of Kindle books. Some minor loss of revenue, perhaps, but it would be pretty simple to set up and would probably encourage some additional purchases.

I have a Kindle 2 and am quite happy with it. Not all the books on it came from Amaon and anyone that suggests this is not easy and simple to do is simply wrong. Such books can even be downloaded through the wireless connection.

Science vs Art (5, Insightful)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | about 5 years ago | (#29344207)

What most people are talking about when they talk about these copyright issues are the copyrighting and/or trademarking of artistic creations.

What's rarely brought up is the fact that there's a very analogous system in the world, too. For scientific creations, there's such a thing as patents. Patents are basically copyright for scientific inventions, as opposed to artistic inventions.

Now, if we compare patents to copyright, the vast disparity in protection length becomes obvious. In most countries, patents protect the exclusivity of scientific inventions for 15-25 years.

Artistic inventions are protected for *95* years. That is to say, 4-5 times longer.

Why? What makes them worth so much longer a protection than scientific inventions get?

The purpose of exclusivity expiring eventually (that is, not being forever) is to release the invented concept into the public domain so that the general public can eventually benefit from making use of the invention in whatever way society feels fit.

However, this right of the general public is by and large being denied at present when it comes to artistic inventions. Copyright terms are being extended and extended by Disney and other megacorporations because they don't want their big brands to become public property.

Imagine if Alexander Bell would have retained exclusive rights to the telephone for 95 years. The patent was issued in 1876. That means the telephone would have become public domain in 1971! The steam turbine would have become available to the general public in 1979 and barbed wire in 1982. The roller coaster and the diesel engine would have expired in 1993.

More importantly, what things would still be patented? We'd be waiting for the zipper to expire in 2012. Aerosol cans would become available in 2022, electric shavers in 2023. Radar wouldn't fall out of protection until 2030.

Imagine how much slower technology would have advanced if things like *zippers* would have to be licensed in order to be used in clothes.

Excessively long protection times directly harm the public, whether it be in the field of our scientific development or in the field of our artistic development.

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